I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Ama was pregnant?! How? When? Who? All sorts of questions flooded my throbbing head. What was I to do? Surely it had to be my fault somehow, or how do you explain a fifteen-year-old getting pregnant right under her mother’s nose?
I turned and stared at Ama’s bent head, as though the neat cornrows could somehow supply the answers that my befuddled mind could not.
The doctor was saying something.
“…but she’ll need to come back on Thursday so we can run a few more tests to be sure everything is fine with the baby”
“Okay,, ” I answered mechanically, hoping that the first half of her statement wasn’t important since I hadn’t heard a word of it.
I couldn’t even figure out what was important anymore. In the past hour, I had lost all perspective – I couldn’t decide whether to walk outside to my car or sit my daughter down in the hospital waiting room and demand that she answer my truckload of questions.
Going home was probably best.
I had played this scene over and over again in my mind, but in my mind, my mother had shouted at me, she’d even cried and asked me “Why Ama?” with great big tears rolling down her smooth cheeks.
But instead, she’d been quiet. For a full minute, she was as still as a statue, staring straight ahead. I couldn’t bear to look at her. I bowed my head. After a while, I could feel her eyes on me, I looked up expecting fire, but all I saw was a blank stare. Oh no. This I didn’t like. Why didn’t she do what I had imagined? I needed her to shout, call me names, hit me… Do something, not just sit there.
I had shamed myself and my family. I had to be punished.
We left the hospital for home, and I thought she wanted to be in familiar territory before unleashing her anger. I waited.
The journey from the hospital to the house – travelled so many times in the past month due to Bosah’s constant asthma attacks – had never seemed so long. It was agony being alone in the car with my mother with only the sound of the engine breaking the silence.
I let myself out of the car and made a beeline for the front door, delaying the inevitable.
This is one time I wish Odion hadn’t run off and left us. At least for all his shortcomings, he loved his children and always seemed to know what to do. However, I suspect that even he would have been fazed by this one. It isn’t every day you hear from your doctor that your daughter is pregnant.
I used to think such things didn’t happen to people like us; it happened to others – less successful, less religious, less wealthy… Just not us.
I have to deal with this somehow.
“Ama, please come downstairs now”
“Tell me, what happened?”
I hadn’t expected myself to cry, but I did. I felt like, no, I knew that I’d really let my Mum down. It wasn’t her fault that I’d rebelled against all I’d ever been taught. I had just wanted to get away from it all for a while; to be like everyone else. I no longer wanted to be trapped beneath the weight of people’s expectations. I didn’t want to keep believing I was somehow guilty for my parents’ separation or my brother’s constant sickness. I yearned for space to breathe.
This longing drove me into Tai’s arms.
Tai was the school football team goalie. Friendly and cute, he was one of the guys almost all the girls wanted to go out with, which is why I was surprised and flattered when he said he wanted me to be his girlfriend.
And boy did I like it! I suddenly became popular; I was going out with one of the most sought-after boys at school, and everyone wanted to be my friend. I was getting invited to parties; not that I liked partying, but anything different from boring church youth group meetings suddenly sounded like a great idea.
We always wanted to be together, Tai and I, and so the lies started. I felt terrible at first, but then I justified my actions by saying my Mum hadn’t been paying much attention to me lately anyway, it was either Bosah, my Dad, or herself, never me. I invented all sorts of school activities, making sure I didn’t overdo it so my Mum didn’t get suspicious.
For the night of Simon’s big rave, which was my first all-night party, I told my Mum I was going to Jenny’s for a slumber party. It was her birthday the next day, and she’d been talking about a slumber party for ages. I thought it was the perfect alibi. I was jittery throughout the day, though, because I kept thinking my Mum would call Jenny’s parents to check, and then I’d be in deep trouble.
She didn’t, and I went for the party with Tai. I remember the heady feeling of going to an all-night party, the house was filled with screaming boys and girls, adrenalin pumping, dancing as though their lives depended on it.
Many times in the past 3 months, I’ve wondered if my drink was spiked that night. I remember being rather loose-tongued and clingy. When the lights were dimmed for the slow dancing to begin, everyone started to melt into the shadows, and Tai pulled me off the floor as well. We ended up in a room somewhere in the house. I wasn’t so drunk or high that I didn’t know what I was doing. Conscious of my actions, I had sex for the first time in my life, and that night I became pregnant.
After then I didn’t want to see Tai any longer. I thought it was supposed to be the other way round – the guy doesn’t want to have anything to do with the girl once he’s had his way with her. I couldn’t even bear the sight of him! Every memory of my shameful act came flooding in whenever I saw him. I couldn’t believe how brazen I’d been that night. Was this what the desire to ‘belong’ could do to one? Or had I always been like that beneath my demure exterior?
I withdrew into my shell and prayed every day that I would not be pregnant. But somehow I knew the deed had been done and the home pregnancy test confirmed it. I didn’t tell anyone, not Tai, not anyone. Some girls were talking about a website that sold drugs over the Internet – drugs that you couldn’t get at a pharmacy or at least not without a prescription. I went online and with my mum’s card, ordered some that were guaranteed to get rid of pregnancies “painlessly, within minutes”.
I didn’t take them. I couldn’t. My conscience wouldn’t allow me. I didn’t need to make something that was already bad even worse.
Stupidly, I hadn’t thought that my mum would check her statement and see that a payment had been made to a strange account. She did and asked me about it. I denied knowledge of the transaction, and she went to her bank to find out who owned the account. A web search brought up the company’s site, and she got really suspicious.
She called me to her room the day after she’d been to the bank and asked me outright why I was taking drugs. I gave a nervous laugh and told her it was absurd that she’d even think I would have anything to do with that.
She didn’t look particularly convinced, but she didn’t say anything more.
At least not until earlier today when she came to pick me from school and instead of driving home, headed for the hospital.
After I told her about Tai, and why I did what I did, my mum started to cry. I couldn’t bear it. We switched roles for a while as she laid her head on my shoulders and wept her eyes out.
I can hardly believe this is happening. What have I done to myself? What have we done to each other?
The whole thing seems like fiction, and yet it isn’t because I’m not reading it off the pages of a book. It’s happening to us— my mum and her preoccupation with her sick son, her runaway husband,… indeed everything and everyone except me; me with my desire to belong, my craving for attention…
My mum’s chest was heaving with grief and her eyes were red from crying, as she looked up at me.
God, I’m sorry. Please help us…help me.